SCOTT — The No. 2 Acadiana High School boys soccer team earned a spot in the Division I state semifinals Sunday night after defeating No. 7 Denham Springs 2-1 in a contest that came down to goals late in the game.
For the second consecutive contest, the Rams overcame a second-half deficit and took one step closer to their ultimate goal of winning the state championship.
“This team’s got some character,” Acadiana coach Jan Richard said. “They’re just battle-tested. Everybody brings their best game against us. Denham Springs was unbelievable tonight. They went up, and we found a way to respond.”
All three goals of the contest came within 10 minutes.
After a scoreless first half, Denham Springs struck first with a goal in the 58th minute from junior forward Cam Hilliard off a two-on-one opportunity.
“I was worried,” Richard said. “We haven’t been down many games this year, and to be down that late in the game, I was wondering when the character of my team would show up.”
But while Richard worried his team’s season was in jeopardy, Denham Springs coach Chris Thorne said he knew the game was far from over.
“I knew that wouldn’t be the last goal of the game,” Thorne said. “When you play a team as gritty and experienced as (Acadiana), you can’t get comfortable with a late-game lead.”
Thorne was correct, and their lead did not last long.
The Rams evened things up in the 65th minute when Kade Kling found the ball in the midst of a scrum after a free kick and forced the ball in the net.
Less than four minutes later, Acadiana senior midfielder Aaron Clark found the back of the net on another free kick to give the Rams a lead they would not relinquish.
“Those are once in a lifetime shots, and those are shots that will win the game for you,” Richard said of Clark’s goal. “Fortunately, we were able to hold them off for the last 10-to-12 minutes and move on. Championship-caliber teams find a way to win, and we did that tonight.”
Thorne said the Yellow Jackets had reason to hold their heads high. They reached the quarterfinals for the first time in the 8-year-old program’s history, and he said they fought hard enough to win the contest. The ball just didn’t go their way.
“Everybody feels like they deserve to win,” Thorne said. “Everybody feels they’re the best team. Tonight, the ball went their way. It’s a tough to beat a team three times in a row, but they did it, and my hats off to them. I think they’re the team to beat.”
Acadiana will play for a spot in the Division I final against the winner of Tuesday’s contest between No. 3 Jesuit and No. 6 Brother Martin.